Dopamine-induced dispersion of correlations between action potentials in networks of cortical neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2004 Sep;92(3):1817-24. doi: 10.1152/jn.00202.2004. Epub 2004 Apr 14.


The involvement of dopamine in the process of learning, at the cellular and behavioral levels, has been studied extensively. Evidently, dopamine is released from midbrain nuclei neurons on exposure to salient unpredicted stimuli and binds to neurons of cortical and subcortical structures, where its neuromodulatory effects are exerted. The neuromodulatory effects of dopamine at the synaptic and cellular levels are very rich, but it is difficult to extrapolate from these elementary levels what their effect might be at the behaviorally relevant level of neuronal ensembles. Using multi-site recordings from networks of cortical neurons developing ex vivo, we studied the effects of dopamine on connectivity within neuronal ensembles. We found that dopamine disperses correlations between individual neuronal activities while preserving the global distribution of correlations at the network level. Using selective D(1) and D(2) modulators, we show that both receptor types are contributing to dopamine-induced dispersion. Our results indicate that, at the neuronal ensemble level, dopamine acts to enhance changes in network connectivity rather than stabilize such connections.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Dopamine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Nerve Net / drug effects*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Rats


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Dopamine